What are the Reasons For Stunted Pothos? 3 Reasons!

You always hear about how easy it is to grow and how it’s nearly impossible to fail to make these plants thrive. So it can feel like you have the blackest of thumbs if your photos are sad and stunted. You aren’t a failure doomed to a lifetime of pathetic houseplants, I promise.

Pothos are living things, and like all living things, they can sometimes struggle to thrive. Anyone who has lived on a diet of fast food during a particularly busy time in their life can certainly relate. A close up vertical image of a pothos houseplant growing in a white pot set on a wooden surface. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

The trick, obviously, is figuring out what the problem is and addressing it as quickly as you can. The good news is that pothos are quick to turn around once you determine what the issue is. In this guide, we’ll walk you through what can cause stunted pothos growth and small leaves so you can sort out their woes.

What are the Reasons For Stunted Pothos?

Here are the possible reasons why your pothos might not be growing. I will walk you through to identify and solve the issues and make your pothos thrive again.

1. Dormancy 

It is important to understand that there are periods of the year when pothos don’t grow, and this dormancy is perfectly normal. During the cooler winter months, expect your Pothos to put on very little growth, even in an indoor environment.

2. Lack of Light

This is quite a common one. The Pothos has such a reputation for accepting low light conditions that people expect it to grow when light is insufficient. 

The plant will survive in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, but it will not grow much. Ideally, you want to place your plant where it will get bright light but not direct sunlight.

3. Lack of Nutrients

To perform at their best, all plants need nutrients and the Pothos is no exception. You don’t need to feed your plant every other day, but it does need to be in fertile soil.

Often, when you purchase a plant, the soil it arrives in is already depleted. Repot your Pothos into a similar-sized, or slightly larger pot and use good quality potting soil with good drainage capacity.

Why Are My Pothos Losing Leaves?

Like all plants, Pothos drop a few leaves from time to time. If that leaf drop becomes extreme, it is a sure sign that your plant is unhappy. This is almost always a result of over or underwatering.

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1. Overwatering

Overwatering is the most common reason for pothos demise. Plant owners see that their plant is starting to look unhappy and their first instinct is to save it by applying more water.

Very often, it was too much water that initiated the unhappiness in the first place. Not only will the pothos start dropping leaves, but they will also stop growing. Normally, before dropping, the leaves will become flaccid and turn yellow.

2. Underwatering

The opposite extreme to overwatering is underwatering, and curiously, this issue can produce somewhat similar results. Your pothos will wilt and then leaves will go brown, crisp, and fall off.

3. Improper Nutrients

Here’s another common one. Everyone wants their Pothos to grow rapidly and turn into that rampant vine they have seen in the garden magazines. 

They try to shortcut natural rates of growth by supplying excess food in the form of fertilizer. This is not going to work. 

Natural growth rates are predetermined and all you can do is provide optimal conditions so that your plant grows to its best potential. If you give too much fertilizer or the wrong type of fertilizer, you risk poisoning the plant slowly. 

What is the Correct Watering Procedure For Pothos?

Both underwatering and overwatering issues can be resolved by adopting the correct watering procedure as soon as you take possession of your pothos. You need to understand that this is a plant that likes to dry out between each watering

A good way to know when to water is to rely on the low-tech method of poking your finger into the soil and feeling for moisture. When the top two inches or so feel dry, you know that it is time to re-water. 

Poking your finger into the soil to around the depth of your second knuckle will give you an accurate enough indication.

When the plant has dried to that depth, stand it in a basin and water the top of the soil until the excess water starts to drain out through the drainage hole in the base of the pot. After that, allow the water to stop draining and place the plant back in its normal position.

There are a couple of don’ts to bear in mind here. Don’t place the pot in its saucer until after all excess water has drained out of the soil or it will fill the saucer and trap water in the potting mix, thus waterlogging the roots. 

Also, don’t water the regime. This is something many indoor gardeners get wrong. Instead of watering only when they feel the top two inches of soil is dry, they water to a schedule without checking to see if the plant actually needs it.

What Can I Do If My Pothos Are Not Growing?

You now have some knowledge about the most likely reasons that your Pothos are lingering but not thriving. 

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The first thing you will need to do is to identify what the cause of the plant’s general unhappiness is. It may be a combination of more than one of the factors above. 

Often, when a plant is not in ideal conditions, it becomes susceptible to a variety of problems. All of the problems are easily addressed once you have pinpointed what they are. 

Pothos are long-lived houseplants and if you get its conditions right, you can confidently expect this plant to have a lifespan of at least ten years, and there are reports of plants that have lived far longer.

Your Pothos is capable of gaining as much as twelve inches of growth a month during the growing season once you get the conditions right. This ability to create an indoor jungle effect quickly is one reason this plant is so popular.

How and When Can I Prune My Pothos?

Assuming you have overcome your plant’s sluggish attitude, you are soon going to find yourself in a position where you may need to consider pruning to keep the plant under control. 

Pothos are very tolerant of being pruned but, like all plants, the timing is important and pruning is best done during the growing season, and especially in the spring when growth is most rapid. 

These plants are very tolerant of being pruned and it is also very easy. All you need to do is cut them back to below a node using a clean pair of scissors or secateurs. Quite how you prune them depends on what you are trying to achieve.

  • Pruning for shape: I grow my pothos long and trailing but not everyone likes this or has the room. You can keep your plant cut back and grow it in a bushier style. The stems can be cut back to just a few inches above the soil and this will encourage the production of new stems.
  • To Prevent Legginess: Sometimes, the long trailing stems start to become a bit leggy as leaves fall. New leaves do not grow back easily and I find it better to cut back bare stems and lead new growth through to replace them. New leaves start off small, but they quickly catch up with others provided ideal conditions are being achieved. 
  • To Stop Disease and Pest Spread: Another reason that I prune is to cut out diseased or pest-infected leaves. Sometimes, these issues can make the plant unsightly and it is easier to just snip off any leaves that are not attractive or which are detracting from the overall appearance of the plant.

Some gardeners shy away from pruning but if it is done correctly and at the right time it is something that can invigorate a plant and give it a whole new lease on life.

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How Fast Do Pothos Grow?

Are you planning to start growing a pothos but bothered about how long it’ll take it to grow?

If provided with the appropriate environment, pothos can grow anywhere between 12-18 inches every month.

Pothos can expand up to 40 feet high and up to 6 feet vast in ideal living settings. They develop swiftly in growing seasons, i.e., spring through summer.

They tolerate a wide range of conditions and grow considerably well in harsh conditions too. So you will see brand new baby pothos maturing and growing long and bushy in 3-4 months.

How Can I Revive a Stunted Pothos?

It is uncommon for a plant to get into such a poor state of health that it dies. Almost invariably, if the plant gets into such a dire situation, it will be the result of a watering problem. If the plant becomes too dry it will succumb, but the biggest killer is overwatering which induces root rot. 

If the plant is too dry you will soon know by feeling the soil and because the leaves have become dry and desiccated. Give it a good soaking and hopefully, it will slowly recover. If the plant is too wet then tip it out of its pot and examine the roots. You will be able to spot root rot as the infected roots will be brown and soft. Healthy roots are white and firm.

Cutaway any rotting roots as they are serving no real purpose other than possibly sustaining pathogens. Allow the root ball to dry out by standing the plant on some dry newspaper. 

After that, repot into new, clean potting soil. The potting soil should already be slightly damp so don’t water for a while and allow the plant to start its slow recovery. Once it starts to dry out, follow the watering system that you have read about above.

Best Watering System For Pothos

1. sPlant LCD Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit

What are the Reasons For Stunted Pothos? 3 Reasons!

sPlant LCD Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit is a patent minimalist industrial design from Italy team, always a classic look to your home. The new automatic watering system device is equipped with a large LCD module, the display is clear and soft. Replace indicator light with flashing graphics, device status is easy to read. 

Redefine the setting logic, just by pressing the up and down button the user can easily adjust the value and switch the unit, and then confirm the setting with the set button. The smart sprinkler can water once an hour to once every 30 days. And watering 5 seconds to 59 minutes. Users can control the watering time and frequency according to their needs. Because the drip emitter is voltage regulator design, it can provide a relatively steady flow for your plants when it is the correct setting. 


  • Easy to set up
  • It provides steady flow of water


  • Siphoning is a serious problem with this pump.
What are the Reasons For Stunted Pothos? 3 Reasons!


So, you need to be vigilant if your pothos is not getting everything it needs to maintain the normal growth rate. Identifying why your pothos not growing is the most important stage of fixing the problem. Follow the above-mentioned real-life experience and you can make your pothos thrive again.